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Aug 12, 2017

Work Shapes The City And Its Skyline of Singapore

Photo courtesy of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA)


The Urban Redevelopment Authority is Singapore’s land use planning and conservation authority. Our mission is to make Singapore a great city to live, work and play in.

We strive to create a vibrant and sustainable city of distinction by planning and facilitating Singapore’s physical development in partnership with the community.

More about Urban Redevelopment Authority here .

Struggling with land limitations and poor infrastructure, Singapore in the early years of nationhood, was a vastly different city than the one we live in and enjoy today.

Singapore’s remarkable transformation from an overcrowded country suffering from a lack of housing to an environmentally sustainable international business hub is a result of proactive and farsighted planning by URA.

The authority was established on 1 April 1974, and is of especially critical importance to the city-state, because Singapore is an extremely dense country where land usage is required to be efficient and maximised in order to reduce land wastage in the face of land shortage.

The URA is also responsible for assisting to facilitate racial harmony, such as to have their urban planning avoid segregation, as well as seeking ways to improve aesthetics and to reduce congestion. It is also responsible for the conservation of historic and cultural buildings and national heritage sites.

During the 1960s and 1970s, extensive urban renewal projects were undertaken to address the problems of a new nation—overcrowding, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of proper housing. The critical tasks for the government then were to clear out the slums, provide public housing, and encourage economic growth by creating space for industries.

[Source:  Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore]

Pioneers of Urban Redevelopment Authority Singapore

Mr Kelvin Ang and Ms Chan Li Ming (Courtesy of The Straits Times)

'My work shapes the city and its skyline'
By Chan Seet Fun
(Courtesy of The Straits Times, 2 March 2007)

URA scholars Kelvin Ang and Chan Li Ming take pride in conserving Singapore heritage.

Telling people that he works at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) elicits the inevitable response of "I have this car park summons ..."

Says URA scholar Kelvin Ang, 35:  "It is a great conversation starter in many situations."

On a more serious note, he adds that one people hear that he works on heritage buildings, many tell him that they appreciate the need to protect these building.

"They tell me that it is an important job," he says.  "It is very rewarding to know that the work my colleagues and I are doing is valued by the public.  This is what keeps me going, and what I value - to be in a meaningful profession and preserve the legacy of a city I love."

Echoed his colleague and fellow scholar Ms Chan Li Ming, 28.  "My work in conservation gives me the scope of purpose and push policies that have a significant impact on the country and its people.

"My work goes beyond just the indidual building site to a macro view of the entire island.  And  it extends beyond the physical realm to touch the emotional aspects of the lives of not just one, but many, Singaporeans."

Both Mr Ang and Ms Chan work as executive architects with the Conservation & Urban Design Division at URA.  Both were educated overseas.  Ms Chan at the University of Melbourne and Mr Ang at University College London, on URA Undergraduate Scholarship.

Ms Chan joined URA in 2003. One of the major projects she was involved in was the conservation study of the former Jurong Town Hall, the youngest and largest building that has been conserved to date, and a project that she described as a "real milestone in terms of the progress of URA's conservation work."

Mr Ang, who started work at URA in 1999, lists proposing an Urban Design Plan for the "Balestier Project (2000-2003) "as one of his most memorable projects.  Conceived as a guide to total redevelopment of the road, the project eventually encompassed the conservation of various landmarks as well.

"I visited and re-visited the area over many months, drawing on what I learnt in geography, history and literature in secondary school and junior college and talking to different stake-hoders to better understand their expectations for a place that they regard as home," he recalls.

"I also learned that I work in a very supportive environment where peers and management push each other to come up with the solutions to achive the best possible outcome."

He discovered his latent interest in conservation while on the job, and explains that his peers and bosses had spotted his interest, even before he was fully aware of it himself, and had helped to steer him into his current role.

"It was only during my first year at work that I realised I was getting more and more interested in conservation and wondered if we could do even more because it made me think about what "home" was all about," he says.

"I am not just dealing with my fellow citizens' memories and hopes for the future.  It is a way of giving back to the society that gave me the opportunity to have an overseas education."

Ms Chan is also grateful for having had a chance to study abroad.  "Living in Melbourne opened my eyes t not just an Australian culture but also many others from my interaction with other international students.  I also had tutors who worked at some of Australia's most notable firms and who would get their colleagues involved in mentoring and student work," she shares.

Upon her return, the scholarship continued to open doors for her.  "I have had opportunities that would not have been possible otherwide - overseas conferences, strategivc level work and interaction with officers from other agencies and statutory boards," she says.

Besides, the URA scholarship is the only one that gives a macro perspective of the city and its growth and development.  My work shapes the city and its skyline and that, in itself, is motivating and thrilling, she adds.



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